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So, What is a toxic work culture?

A toxic workplace environment can be made up from a variety of different things.

It is sometimes hard to identify when the culture is becoming toxic and often the discovery is made when it is already too late, and a complaint is made, or employee(s) are lost. According to Breathe Culture Economy’s 2020 report 1 in 5 Brits quit their job due to toxic workplace culture.

A toxic environment can begin to form at any workplace no matter the industry. If the atmosphere is not inviting, if the workload is too much for an individual to complete on time and to a high standard and if the people do not build and maintain good working relationships then the decline can be very quick. Studies have shown that 3 in 10 people have reported that their workplace culture makes them irritable at home.

Some important indicators to look out for:

Low Morale at work I am not talking the Monday blues or occasional down days which many people experience I am talking a big black cloud over the workplace with low energy and a generally dreary day to day environment.

CliquesHave you noticed that small groups form within the workplace which excludes others? It is natural for people to gravitate towards others they have things in common with but there is a difference between having work friends and forming damaging cliques that are purposely leaving others out or making them feel alone.

Lack of CommunicationWould you say that there is effective and positive communication within your workplace? Do you feel that people would happily approach another employee or even leadership if they felt they had a problem or needed more information on a task so that they could complete it to a high standard?

Fear of management / bosses There is a difference between a respect for the boss and a fear… what is it like in your workplace? Do the people feel heard and included by the leadership? Would they speak up in a meeting or would it all be one sided communication from higher powers? The boss / leadership sets the biggest tone for workplace culture and both management styles and interaction styles can be make or break!

There are many more examples, but I won’t go on and on as I’m sure you get the gist. Most of the indicators point towards making sure that there is a good community environment for employees and leaders. It is important that people do not dread coming into work every day and when going to work on Monday ruins a good part of your Sunday you know that something needs to change.

When employees are happy it is proven that their productivity and motivations improve, a Harvard Business School study showing that nearly half of employees that described their workplace as having a toxic environment reduced their effort and made a conscious decision to spend less time at work. With 38% admitting to intentionally decreasing the quality of their work!

A few tips for employees who fear they are in a toxic work environment and would like to start doing something about it:

  • Find like-minded people / Allies

  • Take notes of behaviours or moments you are finding toxic so that is documented in case you need this later

  • Prioritise your own needs

  • Seek out support and advice from people in your personal life

  • Try not to take things personally

  • Positive affirmations will help you to not self-criticise

  • Be as organised and proactive as possible

  • Raise concerns with HR

  • Make sure to take time for yourself outside of work to de-stress

Breaking a toxic work culture can be very difficult but it only takes one person to start the process to a better and more fulfilling workplace.


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